Bruce Randolph High
Denver’s Bruce Randolph school got a bit of attention during the SOTU, lauded as an example of a school system that works. It’s also being held up as an example by the right as an example of anti-Obama policies. In his address, President Obama said the following:
Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado; located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97% of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said “Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing… that we are smart and we can make it.”
97% is an impressive statistic, but not very telling. If there are 100 people in the senior class, that means 97 graduated, but that’s only part of the story. How many juniors went on to graduate, or freshmen. If the school started out with 150 freshmen and only 97 went on to graduate, that’s only 65%, not as impressive a number. So by saying 97% of the seniors graduate, the number alone is almost meaningless.
On the right, Bruce Randolph is being used to attack big government. In 2008, Bruce Randolph has given dispensation to “start over”. Every teacher was required to submit their resume and be potentially re-hired. Depending on what you read, the total hired back was either 6 or 6% of those that re-applied. Free from the unions and tenure contracts, the principal was able to get rid of the bad teachers and bring in new teachers. The right’s mantra of big government and unions are bad for education seemed to be re-enforced by Bruce Randolph, and therefor this example is an embarrassment to Obama not an achievement. But is it? Right before calling out Bruce Randolph in his speech, President Obama proposed the “Race to the Top” program where “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money”. He then goes on to say:
[W]e know what’s possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.
In other words, the bureaucratic, big government view of education is not what the President is proposing. In fact, he’s proposing the opposite. Move the responsibility to educate our children from the federal government back to the state and local level. Show the the federal government the programs that work and it will fund them.
As for Bruce Randolph and it’s restructuring, the fact that 6 or 6% were re-hired doesn’t mean much as Obama has come out repeatedly as against, going so far as to say:
If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability
He’s come out in support for the students not the unions. So the right’s argument doesn’t apply to the President.